Grief. What is it? What effect can it have in our lives? In Grief, Andrew Holleran explores these issues. A middle-aged man who is gay grieves over the loss of his mother, who has recently died after an extended stay at a nursing home. He accepts a temporary teaching assignment in Washington, D. C., filling in temporarily for a faculty member who is on sabbatical, and rents a room in a house whose landlord is a friend of a friend. In his landlord's library he finds and reads the letters and journals of Mary Todd Lincoln and becomes consumed with interest in how she describes her experiences leading to eventual deterioration, unable to reconcile herself to the tragedy of the death of her husband, the assassinated Abraham Lincoln. As he contemplates her decline, he confronts other kinds of grief, such as the grief of middle-aged men like himself who can no longer enjoy the excitement and friendship of youth, and the grief of a whole community that has lost so many people to a ravaging disease.
In this powerful novel, Holleran explores grief in a number of manifestations. What do you think about this novel's view of grief? In what ways do the people depicted in this novel find it difficult or impossble to let go of a vanished past and move on? What does Holleran convey to readers about both the awareness and lack of awareness of the narrator and other characters? How does his view of grief compare with your own experiences of or observations about grief?